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Profits with Purpose: Seventh Generation

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Profits with Purpose: Seventh Generation

Jeffrey Hollender, chief inspired protagonist
Burlington, Vermont

Seventh Generation takes its name from the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee, which states that "in our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."

At Seventh Generation, this wisdom means many things, all of which come together to create a new chain of sustainability that stretches from our company to our customers and out into the world we share. Our mission to do things differently and in the process blaze a new path for business to follow begins with our products and our choice to make them without harmful ingredients and polluting technologies. These include biodegradable, vegetable-based cleaning and laundry products; chlorine-free diapers and training pants; natural lotion baby wipes; chlorine-free organic cotton feminine hygiene products; chlorine-free recycled paper towels, and bath and facial tissues; and trash bags made from recycled plastic.

While our name references the next seven generations, for most parents it's the next generation that matters the most. A short time ago, the e-mail below came into our consumer relations department:

Dear Seventh Generation:
My heart has been overflowing with gratitude since Saturday night. I was emptying the dishwasher, and hadn't realized that it had malfunctioned (all of the dishwashing powder was still in there). My daughter had opened the little detergent door when I wasn't paying attention. I looked down to see her with two handfuls and a mouthful of your dishwasher powder. Frantic, I called Poison Control. "My daughter ate dishwasher powder." They asked what brand it was. "Seventh Generation." "Oh, it's fine then. Just wash it off her hands, and give her a glass of water." Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Gabrielle Lennon
Idyllwild, California

Our products help consumers maintain safer homes and healthier families, and they contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable world. But they're just part of our story. We're also dedicated to building a company in whose operations a new model for business can be found, one that respects its human and environmental assets as much as its financial capital. As a pioneer in the corporate responsibility movement, we believe deeply that a company should provide its employees with a work experience that offers meaning, satisfaction, equity, and the chance to continually grow both inwardly and outwardly. We also believe that all of these things should come together to create a force for good in the world.

Our mission has been embraced by people of all kinds who share our desire to create a better world, and that in turn has translated into commercial success as well. Since 2001, our operating income has increased six fold. Today, our products represent 46% of the total natural foods cleaning, paper, and personal care categories combined.

Seventh Generation Initiatives

Seventh Generation is committed to creating partnerships with organizations that are working toward environmental and social justices. Among them:

Seventh Generation has partnered with Greenpeace to train and sustain the next generation of change agents. Through our joint training program, Change It, we are engaging and empowering college students across the nation to become active on campus and in their communities.

Wee Generation is a collaboration between Seventh Generation and Healthy Child Healthy World, the national leader in safeguarding the healthy or children and protecting them from harmful environmental exposures. By educating parents and engaging communities, we encourage new and expectant parents to make simple, smart choices that allow our children and families to flourish.

Tampontification was a program developed in 2005 when it came to our attention that feminine care products are in short supply in women's shelters around the country. The program used a combination of interrelated issues to inform, educate and move people to action on two interrelated but equally taboo subjects - menstruation and homelessness.